Trinity University Press

Terra Firma: Trinity University Press blog

Two Hats

by Nan Cuba on

You’d think editing an anthology and writing a novel would have nothing in common, but after trying my hand at each, I’ve noticed overlaps. 

An editor chooses a focus, a concept that drives the book’s contents and organizing principles. For Art at Our Doorstep: San Antonio Writers and Artists, Trinity University Press asked me to collect work that represented San Antonio’s literary aesthetic and history. Easy—I was ready at the get-go. A novel’s focus, however, appears during the process of creating the story. The author concentrates on craft issues, and the underlying concept emerges like a message from a Ouija board. I wrote Body and Bread because I wanted to understand the reasons my brother committed suicide. Not until I’d finished did I realize the novel was about the damage caused by a survivor’s grief.  

An editor chooses authors; a novelist creates characters. This comparison is a stretch, but there are similarities. An anthology’s author lineup determines the book’s content and essence; a novel’s characters do the same. An editor not only selects authors; she also chooses representative pieces by each, and the final product is a unique collection of individual parts. An author creates individual characters that shift and grow, their intersecting story lines evolving into a unique culmination. In both cases the artist’s aesthetic vision and literary standards drive the process.  

Maintaining balance is a major issue. For Art at Our Doorstep I included historical and contemporary work. Styles ranged from traditional to experimental, with a variety of genres represented. For Body and Bread I shifted between present and past story lines and between various characters’ scenes, always conscious of pacing.  

Which brings us to structure. How does an editor arrange selected pieces, and does that process resemble the ordering of a novel’s chapters? In each case I relied on some sense of narrative arc. An anthology’s structure is better compared to a piece of music, with the arrangement producing a tonal quality that rises and falls, tenses and relaxes, each effect intuitively conceived. In a novel, the protagonist’s development defines the arc.  

Transitions were tricky. Art at Our Doorstep includes fabulous artwork, and placement of those pieces became a project. Barbara Ras, director of Trinity University Press, and I paired them with the literary pieces, using abstract rather than literal associations. Relying on subject, style, and tone, a synergy evolved from the written and visual connections. Transitions between chapters in Body and Bread were created from seven questions I thought the reader would ask—for example, why did Sam commit suicide, would Cornelia receive her kidney transplant, would Sarah be able to control her hallucinations? Each transition focused on a question and shifted to another with the next chapter.  

I worked closely with an editor on both books. Barbara Ras’s emphasis on the anthology’s celebratory nature meant that some of my choices were replaced with lighter selections. An introduction wrestling with sensitive issues was admired but determined inappropriate. For Body and Bread, my editor guided me through three major revisions, cutting forty pages in the final edit. My experience with each editor was labor-intensive and emotionally and intellectually challenging. In other words, I’m one lucky girl. I’m also grateful for being given this chance to thank them.

ArteKids Is Complete

by Sarah Nawrocki on

When Trinity University Press ventured into the children’s book market with its ArteKids series in 2011, we’d never published anything for children before.

The press, the San Antonio Museum of Art, and the San Antonio Public Library Foundation formed a creative partnership with the aim of publishing a single board book, featuring artwork from the museum’s extensive collection and supporting the library foundation’s Born to Read Program, which delivers a book to every newborn in San Antonio each year.

That book was 1, 2, 3, Sí!, a bilingual counting book in English and Spanish—one guitar, dos ojos, three babies, cuatro amigos, a collection of unruly toucans, and so on, all paired with delightful, vibrant images and child-friendly questions inviting readers to engage with the art.  

The book was so successful—and, incidentally, a lot of fun to publish—that the partnership decided to do two more books. And then two more.

With the essential collaboration of Kia Dorman, the museum’s assistant registrar, and Madeleine Budnick—who serves as the books’ series editor and designer, and who has an uncanny ability to present objects, images, and concepts in irresistible ways to the zero-to-three crowd—we’ve wrestled with art that looked fabulous in the museum’s galleries and not so great, tiny, on the page. And other art that looked just as terrific on the page as it did large and in person. Some art succeeded better featured in full and other art worked better as a detail.

We’ve been able to include art from all over the world, created thousands of years ago, or in the past century, or just last year: the spiral on a Egyptian flask, a zebra sculpture, wooden bears, dog and mouse masks, a pyramid of folk art creatures, the stars on a lotería board, a jaguar hiding in a Huichol yarn mosaic, fierce (but not too fierce) tigers on a Korean screen. The books showcase artwork by Frank Stella and Philip Guston, and by Faith Ringgold and Dale Chihuly, Carmen Lomas Garza, René Magritte, Joey Fauerso, and so many others, both named and unnamed.

Today there are five bilingual board books in the ArteKids series, focusing on numbers, colors, shapes, animals, and the concept of black and white. Like 1, 2, 3, Sí, the others—Colores Everywhere!, Hello, Círculos!, Animal Amigos!, and Black & Blanco!—feature identifying terms for shapes, colors, numbers, patterns, and animals, along with inviting questions (Do you like to eat cake? ¡Claro que sí! Do these spirals make you dizzy? Can your fingers climb these tall stairs? Is it time for a little nap?) that help babies and young children—and their families—encounter artwork in their very own homes or while they’re on the go.  

Texas Book Festival/San Antonio Edition

by Burgin Streetman on

We are excited to be participating in the first Texas Book Festival/San Antonio Edition on Saturday, April 13. This free day of literary happenings will offer book lovers of every age up-close encounters with fifty of their favorite Texas and national authors at presentations, panel discussions, and signings. Tents will feature a variety of food, cooking demonstrations, and musical entertainment. Storytelling and learning activities will be offered for kids. Be sure to stop by the Trinity University Press booth and check out our author events on the schedule: Char Miller (On the Edge)Kim Stafford (100 Tricks Every Boy Can Do)Becky Crouch Patterson (The Ranch That Was Us)Gilbert Garcia (Reagan's Comeback), and Arturo Madrid (In the Country of Empty Crosses)

Hope to see you there!

Ebook Generation

As the ebooks editor at Trinity University Press, and as part of a generation growing up in the digital age, I hate to admit that when ebooks first emerged, I resisted them. (And when I finally gave in and bought one, my ninety-year-old grandmother had to teach me how to use it.) 

As far as I was concerned, ebooks meant the death of the greatest tradition I know. Don’t get me wrong—technology is fine when it comes to certain things. Advances in CGI, digital animation, and other moviemaking technology? Great. The ability to watch ridiculous YouTube clips on my phone? Yes, please. But technology, I thought, leave my books alone!

I love walking into a used bookstore and seeing dusty volumes lined up on a shelf, and more than that, I love what those dusty volumes represent: knowledge and wisdom that have been passed down through generations. As a philosophy major, I love Aristotle best. My closest friend, a classics major, has Plato’s Republic on her bookshelf, next to Euripides. Preservation of tradition, and wisdom, and being transformed by the written word—that’s what books mean to me. Technology, it seemed, threatened to destroy all that. Sure, trendy devices are great when it comes to entertainment while I’m waiting at the doctor’s office, or finding my way back to the hotel when I’m on vacation, or, perhaps, texting a cute guy. But as far as I was concerned, that was about it. 

It turns out that ebooks are doing more to preserve that source of knowledge and wisdom than I realized. They’re allowing publishers to bring long unavailable books back into print, this time to stay. They don’t rely on the number of copies printed, and I can download them instantly to my e-reader. They transcend the challenges of time, space, and availability by virtue of their digitality. 

Take Donald Culross Peattie, one of the twentieth century’s most influential American nature writers, whose work has long been out of print. The age of the ebook allows Trinity University Press to bring back his important body of work this fall for a new generation to appreciate, love, and learn from. And this time it’s without fear of the books ever going “out of print.”

Next year when I’m sitting in a waiting room, maybe I’ll pull up An Almanac for Moderns by Donald Culross Peattie on my iphone instead of watching that YouTube video of the honey badger.


Next Big Thing

by Ann Fisher-Wirth on

Poet, professor, and co-editor of The Ecopoetry Anthology Ann Fisher-Wirth plays a little blog tag with us. She was tagged by the wonderful poet Sharon Dolin, and here she shares a quick Q&A about how The Ecopoetry Anthology came to be.

What is your working title of your book?

I’m blogging about The Ecopoetry Anthology, just released by Trinity University Press. It is coedited by Laura-Gray Street and me, and it has a splendid long introduction by Robert Hass.

Where did the idea come from for the book?

I’ve been a member of the Association for the Study of Literature and Environment for about twenty years. I teach poetry workshops, poetry seminars, and courses in environmental literature at the University of Mississippi, where I also direct our minor in environmental studies. More than six years ago I got the idea to do an anthology of ecopoetry—but the size, shape, and focus of it changed radically several times, as Laura-Gray and I gradually discovered what we wanted to do.

What genre does your book fall under?

The Ecopoetry Anthology is, as the title says, an anthology of poems.

Which actors would you choose to play your characters in a movie rendition?

Now that would be hard to do! But if we got to have scenes of my coeditor Laura-Gray and me laboring over the manuscript, I'd be quite happy if Julie Christie could put on an American accent and play me. Just sayin'.

What is the one-sentence synopsis of your book?

The Ecopoetry Anthology includes American nature poetry from Whitman to about 1960, and American ecopoetry from about 1960 (when the term began to gain parlance) to the present; over 200 poets are included in this nearly 700-page book.

Will your book be self-published or represented by an agency? 

The anthology is published by Trinity University Press.

How long did it take you to write the first draft of your manuscript?

My coeditor Laura-Gray Street and I worked on this book, with a lot of collaboration with our publisher, the poet Barbara Ras, for nearly six years.

What other books would you compare this anthology to?

There are several other new ecopoetry anthologies. I’m thinking in particular of Black Nature, edited by Camille Dungy, and The Arcadia Project, edited by Joshua Corey and G. C. Waldrep. Our anthology complements these; all three are excellent, and it’s quite different.

Who or what inspired you to write this book?

I wanted to discover and bring together a wide and deep variety of poetic responses to the environmental crisis. It's very exciting to see The Ecopoetry Anthology in print. There is so much in it, and anyone who cares about American poetry and anyone who is concerned about environmental issues will find much to love in this beautiful, groundbreaking book.

Tagging: Rachel DacusLynne ThompsonLiesl Jobson.